12 Of London’s Best Bookshops

12 Of London’s Best Bookshops

There’s almost nothing that sparks that festive feeling more than a bookshop’s Christmas window display, piled high with new releases and special signed editions. Whether you’re looking to buy a last-minute gift or find a new book to read over the holidays, here are a dozen of the best in the capital to buy from – both online and in person.

Daunt Books, Various Locations

There’s a reason Daunt Books tote bags are spotted all over the capital. With five shops in London and one in Oxford, Daunt Books is the place to head for a traditional book buying experience. If you’re not sure what to buy for others this Christmas, look to its subscription service, which sees subscribers receive a new title every month, according to their tastes. Once received, giftees can pick their first book with the help of one of the shop’s expert booksellers before receiving a book, carefully chosen by the team, every month. The shop’s booksellers always love to hear from subscribers with any guidance – such as likes, dislikes, favourite authors, books or genres – but you can also choose to leave it entirely up to them for a real surprise each month, which always arrives beautifully wrapped.

Various locations

Visit DauntBooks.co.uk

Maison Assouline, St James’s

The fashion crowd’s favourite publisher, Maison Assouline bills itself as a concept store for culture. Founders Martine and Prosper Assouline created Maison Assouline as a refuge for those seeking style, culture and art de vivre. Besides the curated bookshelves filled with the latest Assouline releases (you’ll know it best from the likes of Ibiza Bohemia and St Tropez Soleil) and rare first editions of classic titles, visitors can look at rare works of art picked up on the Assoulines’ travels, discover monthly pop-up themed exhibitions and enjoy a cocktail or a light lunch at the Swans Bar. The Piccadilly store also sells an exclusive line of Assouline Interiors furniture, limited-edition gift items and antique collectables.

196A Piccadilly, St James's, W1J 9EY

Visit Assouline.com

The Second Shelf, Soho

The Second Shelf was founded as a rare book business in 2017 to celebrate and encourage the collection of books and work by and about women and non-binary people. After an incredible response, the team launched a magazine and opened as a permanent site in Soho in November 2018. While the shop is currently still closed for browsing, the website is fully stocked and live and you can do some personal shopping by email (enquiries@thesecondshelf.com) – just send over your holiday wish list and the team find the perfect present, gift wrap it and ship it anywhere in the world. There are also a number of subscription boxes, which make great gifts, and the shop is also selling on Bookshop, where you can buy new books and select the shop to receive the sale.

14 Smith's Court, Soho, W1D 7DW

Visit TheSecondShelf.com

Hatchards, Piccadilly

Hatchards is London’s oldest bookshop. It was established in 1797 and has been a landmark on Piccadilly for over two centuries. Since its inception, a link has been forged between Hatchards and the royal households of Britain and Europe – the shop currently has three royal warrants. Many things have changed since it opened, but the essence of the place remains the same: if you’re looking for a traditional book-buying experience – which still involved modern bestsellers and contemporary authors – this is the place to go, especially if you combine it with an afternoon at the nearby RA and Fortnum & Mason.

187 Piccadilly, West End, W1J 9LE

Visit Hatchards.co.uk

London Review Bookshop, Bloomsbury

Located in Bloomsbury, just across from the British Museum, the London Review Bookshop has established itself as an essential part of the capital’s cultural life. Opened in 2003 by the publication of the same name, in normal times it’s a place for people who love books to meet, talk, drink tea and coffee, eat cake and browse. The shop’s aim is to represent on its shelves the ethos of the Review – intelligent without being pompous; engaged without being partisan. A selection of more than 20,000 titles ranges from the classics of world literature to the cutting edge of contemporary fiction and poetry, not forgetting a huge selection of history, politics, philosophy, cookery, essays and children’s books.

14 Bury Place, Bloomsbury, WC1A 2JL

Visit LondonReviewBookshop.co.uk

Foyles, Charing Cross

Foyles, which was founded in 1903 by brothers William and Gilbert, first opened on Charing Cross Road in 1906 and moved to its location at 113-119 Charing Cross Road in 1929. Now, the Foyles flagship at 107 Charing Cross Road houses a range of over 200,000 different titles on four of shelves – the equivalent of lining one bank of the Thames with books from Battersea Power Station to the Tower of London. Spread across eight alternating foot-plates over four floors, it is the largest bookshop to have opened in the UK this century. Foyles employs more than 80 expert booksellers: while these days most bookshops are stocked by books bought centrally from head office and distributed across the chain, at Foyles the heads of department are also the buyers, so are truly experts in their stock and subjects. Alongside books, there’s a wide range of gifts and stationery, magazines, printed music, CDs and DVDs, as well as a cafe and auditorium.

107 Charing Cross Road, West End, WC2H 0DT

Visit Foyles.co.uk

Persephone Books, Holborn

Persephone Books reprints neglected fiction and non-fiction by mid-20th-century (mostly) women writers. All of its 139 books are intelligent, thought-provoking and beautifully written and are chosen to appeal to busy people wanting titles that are neither too literary nor too commercial. The team publishes novels, short stories, diaries, memoirs and cookery books – each has an elegant grey jacket, a ‘fabric’ endpaper with matching bookmark, and a preface by writers such as Jilly Cooper, David Kynaston and Elaine Showalter. Its Lamb’s Conduit Street bookshop is well worth a browse – as are the street’s many other shops, such as La Fromagerie, Folk and Dawson Flowers.

59 Lamb's Conduit Street, Holborn, WC1N 3NB

Visit PersephoneBooks.co.uk

Taschen London, Chelsea

Taschen London is a light-filled bookstore in Chelsea: Naomi Campbell, Gorillaz’s Jamie Hewlett and designer Marc Newson have all launched their Taschen editions at this modern spot in Duke of York Square. Designed by French architect and furniture designer Philippe Starck (trust us, if you’re into interiors, you’ll recognise his famous chairs), the store offers a huge range of books at street level, while the basement gallery showcases limited editions as well as a rotating roster of artist prints. Ideal for anyone looking to buy for design, architecture and fashion enthusiasts.

Duke of York Square, Chelsea, SW3 4LY

Visit ​Taschen.com

Primrose Hill Books, Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill Books has reopened, promising plenty of new titles and a wide selection of Christmas cards and seasonal wrapping paper. The team is able to gift-wrap and post books out on customers’ behalf worldwide, and also offers a free local delivery service. Book tokens (to be used in any UK bookshop) and gift vouchers specifically for Primrose Hill Books are also available if you’re uncertain which books to choose for your friends and relatives. Its Christmas catalogue – an independent, personal selection of the best of this season’s books – is available in a printed format for you to take away and peruse – perfect for the indecisive.

134 Regent's Park Road, Primrose Hill, NW1 8XL

Visit PrimroseHillBooks.com

Second Home at Libreria, Shoreditch

The mission of Second Home in east London’s Libreria is to nurture creativity and innovation. A modern space designed by Spanish architects SelgasCano, every aspect of Libreria is intended to help customers discover new books and ideas. Its shelves are arranged according to broad themes like 'Wanderlust', ‘Enchantment for Disenchanted’ and ‘The City’, so customers can constantly encounter titles they might not have come across otherwise. A series of subscription services, which cover fiction, non-fiction, poetry and children’s books (or a mix of the first three) make ideal gifts.

65 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields, E1 5JP

Visit Libreria.io

Lutyens & Rubinstein, Notting Hill

Founded in 2009 by literary agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein, this Notting Hill bookshop (no, not that one) sells fiction and general non-fiction with special sections for children’s books, poetry and art books. The emphasis here is on excellence in writing and narrative across a broad range of genres. The core stock was put together by canvassing hundreds of readers – writers, publishing contacts, friends (both adults and children) about which books they would most like to find in a bookshop. Every book stocked has its place because somebody loves it and has recommended it. As well as books, the shop stocks a small range of other gifts including branded bags, stationery, cards, paperweights, pictures by Hugo Guinness and Serge Seidlitz and homemade preserves.

21 Kensington Park Road, Notting Hill, W11 2EU

Visit LutyensAndRubinstein.com

John Sandoe Books, Chelsea

Founded in 1957, John Sandoe Books Ltd is one of London’s best-loved independent bookshops. Its beautiful 18th-century premises, covered with window boxes, is home to over 30,000 titles, carefully selected by staff with nearly 100 years of bookselling – and reading – between them. The shop offers a range of services, from quarterly catalogues, mail order and subscriptions to creating and maintaining libraries, both public and private. Sandoe’s is bursting with books (trust us, they’re crammed in everywhere – piled on tables and even on the stairs) with a bias towards the humanities – fiction, history, biography, poetry, art, architecture, decorative arts, music, theatre, cinema, photography, fashion, natural history, gardening, travel, cookery, science, reference, and an excellent children’s department.

10 Blacklands Terrace, Chelsea, SW3 2SR

Visit JohnSandoe.com

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